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Following continuing reports of children suffering serious and potentially fatal laundry detergent pod poisoning injuries, manufacturers have finally agreed to adopt new standards designed to prevent accidental exposure to the highly concentrated detergent contained in the single-load packets.
The new proposed industry standards for laundry pods were announced on September 4, including changes to make the packaging less attractive to young children, make the materials harder to tear open or chew on, and coating the pods with bitter flavoring designed to deter children from continuing to try to bite into them.
Laundry detergent pods have increased in popularity in recent years, containing a pre-measured amount of detergent in a gel pack that is designed to be dropped into the washing machine before each load. However, thousands of problems have been linked to laundry detergent pod accidents, primarily involving young children or mentally handicapped adults who placed the brightly colored pods in their mouth.
The gel packs are sold in bright colors and are often packaged in a way that makes them appear similar to a candy or an infant teething toy. Given the concentrated nature of the laundry detergent, ingesting the liquid may cause severe and potentially life-threatening injury.
The new standards were announced by ASTM International, formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials, which developed the new standards in response to safety concerns raised by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and various consumer advocacy groups.
“This is a great example of how industry, consumer groups, government and others come together, reach consensus and work to create a stronger culture of safety and health,” James A. Thomas, president of ASTM, said in the press release.
The new standards must still meet final approval by ASTM’s Committee F15 on Consumer Products on September 15.
Other industry groups, such as the American Cleaning Institute (ACI), has said it will back the standards. However, the standards are voluntary guidelines and not legally required. Once the standards are approved, they will be published and the industry would work with the CPSC to determine when the changes will hit the market, according to an ACI press release.
Concerns Over Laundry Pod Accidents
According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPC), as of July 31, 2015, there have been at least 7,184 reports of laundry packet exposure this year. That is a rate of more than 1,000 incidents per month.
Children who have gotten the detergent in their mouths have experienced excessive vomiting, gasping, fatigue, breathing problems, and the effects can be fatal. There have also been reports of corneal abrasions when the detergent has made contact with the eyes. Others have report skin irritation and other adverse events when exposed to the contents of the packets.
In response to the thousands of children affected by laundry detergent pod poisoning, the Detergent Poisoning and Child Safety (PACS) Act 2015 was introduced earlier this year, to establish safety regulations surrounding single-use pods and to reduce the risk posed to children.
A number of laundry pod injury lawsuits are currently being pursued against manufacturers of the products, alleging that inadequate steps were taken to ensure the safety of the products.
The AAPC advises parents to keep detergent containers closed and stored out of reach of children. They should follow all product instructions and call their local poison center at (800) 222-1222 if a child has come into contact with the contents of a laundry pod.